Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Another Year Of Freakish Weather Patterns.

"Breaking news in recent years has been swamped with stories of extreme weather - flash floods in East Asia, prolonged drought in Africa, destructive hurricanes like Hurricane Katrina, heavy monsoon rainfall in South Asia, and an historic heat wave in Europe. The effects of these weather crises have been devastating and their frequency seemingly on the rise." - A NASA Feb 2007 report

As climate experts warned that higher temperatures are a taste of things to come, the new year begins ominously with wacky weather patterns occurring in major countries around the world in the first week of 2008.
Bush fires in Australia
Australia started the new year with a spate of extreme weather conditions from heatwaves, heavy rainfall to flooding. Major cities, like Perth and Melbourne, suffered heatwaves with bushfires raging in the east and west coast while in Sydney, huge waves of up to 3 m high pounded the beaches, forcing their closure to the public. In northern Darwin, Cyclone Helen wrought havoc with winds of up to 130 kmh and a stretch of New South Wales coast was declared a natural disaster zone after five rivers in the east coast broke their banks amid heavy rainfall, with the flooding forcing people to flee their homes, submerging properties and bridges.

Winter storm in US
According to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, Australia experienced its sixth warmest year on record last year, with an average annual temperature of 21.8 deg C, some 0.67 deg C above normal. The southern states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, as well as the major agricultural zone of Murray Darling Basin, experienced their hottest year since 1910.

These areas are home to the majority of Australia's population and formed about 75 per cent of the country's irrigated farmlands. "What we have seen in the past year is a confirmation of what we have known is going on. Australia is warming; it is warming quickly," said Mr. David Jones of the National Climate Centre. What made the higher temperatures abnormal was the fact that it came about as the country experienced the La Nina phenomenon - usually associated with cooler and wetter conditions.
Heavy flooding in Malaysia
Similiar freakish weather behaviour were also reported in other countries for the new year. In the US west coast, winter storms left hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in California, Oregon and Washington without power. Emergencies were declared in three counties in California and about 160 km of the Interstate 80 highway was closed. In Malaysia, sudden monsoon storms and heavy downpours caused heavy flooding in the states of Johor, Pahang and Kelantan, submerging homes and leaving thousands of people stranded without food and power.

Harbin Ice Festival
In China, higher temperatures are even hurting the most famous tourist attraction in the northern city of Harbin - its annual ice sculpture contest. Average annual temperatures in the city, dubbed the "City of Ice", hit 6.6 deg C last year, the highest since record-keeping began. Ice sculptures and lanterns melted right after they were sculpted and as the temperatures rises, the period of ice and snow activities shortened dramatically. "The average temperature of winter in Harbin is 5 deg C higher than historical records," said a senior meteorologist from the Heilongjiang Observatory.

The unbridled burning of fossil fuels have led to higher worldwide temperatures and changing weather patterns. With the world projected to experience a warmer 2008, and unless man can come to grips with reducing carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change, the freakish and unpredictable weather patterns seems like here to stay

*Sources :
- BBC News
- Science journal Nature
- Bureau of Meterology, Australia
- Heilongjiang Observatory, China

*Related post : The Impact of Global Warming on Rainfall and Flooding.